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Virat Kohli: Chronicling his journey in Test cricket

From a brash young kid to a Test skipper: We take a look at Virat Kohli's journey with Team India in Test cricket 5 years after his debut.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has plenty to smile about at the moment

It will certainly be a special moment for Virat Kohli when he leads out his Indian team at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium for the first Test against West Indies starting on the 21st of July. Special, for a number for reasons. This will be his 4th series as captain of the Indian cricket Test team, his 3rd series abroad. There will certainly be a sense of nostalgia in his heart, as it is in the Caribbean Islands where he made his debut for the Test team as a 22 year old, a whole five years ago. 

It was a successful series for Team India, as they clinched it 1 - 0 on the back of a 63 run win in Kohli’s debut test match, in Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. This is why this Test series will be special for Kohli. Still very much in the infancy stage of his tenure as Indian captain, he returns to the stage of his first triumph, armed with a young squad, led by a new coach to the islands nations for an all out battle. 

Read: Full schedule of India’s Tour of West Indies

Also read: Anil Kumble speaks about Virat Kohli’s aggression

Make no doubt about, Kohli is an absolute modern day superstar, his stock having risen astronomically over the past couple of seasons, where he has outshone his compatriots, especially with his exploits in the limited overs format of the game. Here, we chronicle Virat Kohli’s journey in Test cricket from a brash, arrogant punk to the calm, confident, stylish, aggressive leader that he grown to become. 

2011: Humble beginnings

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli played his first Test for India in 2011

WI v Ind, June - July: Kohli made his debut as India toured West Indies during the Summer of 2011 for a 3 match series. On his debut, at Sabina Park, coming in to bat at #5, he only managed to score 4 runs before a Fidel Edwards ripper managed to take his outside edge, as he was caught behind the stumps. He enjoyed relatively more success in India’s second innings, scoring 15 before he got out in a similar fashion. This match also marked the debut for Praveen Kumar and Abhinav Mukund, both who went on to outshine Kohli. 

It got worse for him, as he had to depart for a duck in the first innings of the second Test, before improving in the second innings, battling to 27 off 118 balls before getting out to Fidel Edwards again. In the 3rd Test, he made a solid contribution with 30 runs in the middle order as he was left with plenty to ponder about on his journey back. 

Eng v Ind, July - August: Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t part of the Indian squad that travelled to West Indies, but was back as the team travelled to England later that year and Kohli lost his spot in the team. In retrospect, it was a series that he would have been happy to miss, as the English bowlers absolutely tormented the Indians, taking the series 4 - 0.

Ind v WI, November: West Indies travelled to India after this for a 3 match series, a series India went on to win convincingly. With the series already in the bag for India, Kohli got a look in for the 3rd Test, replacing Yuvraj Singh. It was here where he made his mark, scoring 2 fifties, including a very impressive 63 in the second innings as India drew the Test with West Indies, only the second time in Test match history a match ended in a draw with the scores level. Crucially, it helped Kohli seal his spot at #6 in the batting order for the boxing day Test against Australia in Melbourne. It would be his next challenge. 

YearTests playedRuns scoredAverage100s50s
2011520222.4402
Overall41299444.021112
 

2012: A solid season

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli with his ‘first man of the match’ trophy

Dec ’11 - January: India travelled to Australia towards the end of 2011 for a four match series which was sure to test the players, with the Australian conditions always proving to be a challenge for the players. They received an absolute drubbing, losing the series 4 - 0, the margin in two Tests being larger than an innings. It was embarrassing, it was poor, the Indians had nowhere to hide. More importantly, it was the second consecutive Test series away where they got white-washed. 

It was a tough lesson for Kohli, but by the end of it, he came out as a shining light. The first two Tests saw him amassing a total of 43 runs, with a duck in the second innings of the first Test. He came back fighting in the 3rd Test, putting up a valiant fight alone in the second innings, scoring 75 and holding down his end as the wickets collapsed at the other end. He was the final man to be dismissed as Australia had knocked India out for 171. 

On to Melbourne then, for the 4th Test, where Kohli scored his first Test century, a memorable knock of 116 as the rest of the side collapsed again. It was telling that his 300 runs came at an average of 37.50, more than VVS Laxman who averaged 19.37 for the series, Virender Sehwag 24.75, Rahul Dravid 24.25, Gautam Gambhir 22.62, MS Dhoni 20.40 and Sachin Tendulkar 35.87. He had established himself.

August - September: New Zealand travelled to India next. Here, Virat Kohli was exceptional. He scored a 50 which helped India secure a comfortable innings victory. The second Test, belonged to him. His 100 in the first innings, a knock of 103 was crucial as it kept India in the game, with the visitors having posted 365 on the board batting first. He followed this with an unbeaten 50 in the second innings, leading his team to win. He was named the man of the match for his troubles, the first of two such occasions in his career so far.

November - December: England travelled to India and recorded a memorable 2 - 1 series win. At this stage of time, Cheteshwar Pujara was making a name for himself. It was on the back of his double hundred that India recorded an easy win in the first Test. England, however turned it around, dominating India in the next two Tests with Kohli absolutely struggling. He managed to redeem himself with a very hard fought 100 in the fourth Test, scoring 103 off 295 balls as India drew the Test. 
It was this performance that prompted Sunil Gavaskar to say he was ready for the role of Test captaincy, "Till the fourth day of the Nagpur Test, I would have backed Dhoni. Now that Virat has come up with a hundred under trying circumstances where he curbed his natural game, he discovered a good part about himself.

"He is ready to take on the mantle of Test cricket [captain]. That needs to be looked at in a positive manner by everyone concerned, as that is where the future lies.”

YearTests playedRuns scoredAverage100s50s
2012968949.2133
Overall41299444.021112
 
2013: His best season yet in terms of numbers
 
Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli celebrates his special 100 against South Africa
February - March: Revenge was certainly on the mind for the Indians as the Australians came to visit in early 2013. India, still reeling from the whitewash of the previous season, had to prove a point and prove a point they did. Outwitting the Australians at every turn, 2013 started off in memorable fashion for Team India as they trounced Australia 4 - 0, successfully avenging their defeat and exorcising the ghosts of the previous season. 

Kohli was not needed to do much during this series as there were plenty of positive performances throughout the series. Most notably, with Pujara and Dhoni both scoring double hundreds, The highlight for Kohli during the series was the 100 he managed in the first Test in Chennai. It was a crucial knock as Australia had scored 380 in the first innings. In reply, Kohli battled to his knock of 107, but it was overshadowed by a smashing 224 from MS Dhoni. He managed just another another 50 in the series. 

November: West Indies travelled to India towards the back end of 2013, and were given an absolute hiding, losing 2 - 0 on the back of two innings defeats. The first Test belonged to Rohit Sharma, who scored 177 and the second Test belonged to Pujara and Rohit. Kohli scored a 50 in the second Test and it was the beginning of what was going to be a very strong end to his season. 

December: After two consecutive series victories, India travelled to South Africa. It would prove to be a real Test as India’s struggles in foreign conditions were exposed, as they lost the two match series 1 - 0. Kohli had laid the platform expertly in the first Test, scoring 119 in the first innings as India held a 36 run lead at the halfway stage. In the second innings, Pujara and Kohli helped to pile on the misery with the former scoring a century, and, the latter falling 4 runs short. The match was drawn as South Africa fell 7 runs short, chasing 458. 

It was more smooth sailing for the hosts in the second Test, as they sailed to a 10 wicket win. 

YearTests playedRuns scoredAverage100s50s
201386165623
Overall41299444.021112
2014: A test of character 
 
Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli was imperious against the Australians

February: Team India travelled to New Zealand in early 2014 and left empty handed. They were left to lament of what could have been. It was a fascinating, evenly poised series that could have gone either way. In the end, the Kiwis clinched the series 1 - 0. 

In the first Test, the hosts had a commanding 300 run lead at the halfway stage. The Indians came roaring back, dismissing the hosts for a mere 105 in the second innings. What ensued was complete drama, total theatre, as India fell a mere 40 runs short chasing 407. Kohli would have been disappointed he couldn’t convert his start into a 100 and take his team home, losing his wicket on 67 before the rest of the team collapsed. 

The second Test was even more remarkable. India dismissed the hosts for 192 and held a 246 run lead before Brendon McCullum went on to score a remarkable triple century that left India with too much to do in the final innings. Kohli scored a 100 as India batted out the remaining overs to draw the game. 

July - August: India in England, the Pataudi Trophy 2014, the one black mark in Kohli’s record. A gigantic, piercing black mark as Kohli absolutely struggled as he was made to look tame by the English bowlers. A weakness was identified - Kohli was suspect when he looked to push the ball away from his body, he just couldn’t handle the swing in England as he had a series to forget. The numbers speak for themselves, 134 runs in 5 Tests, at an average of 13.4 with no fifties and a highest score of 39. All eyes were on Kohli as India were set to tour Australia next.

This was his moment. December - January 2015: India’s test captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was ruled out from the first Test in Adelaide due to injury, and thus, Kohli stepped in. In his first match as captain, he established himself, letting his attitude and aggression speak their own story, symbolic of the time to come for Team India, a new Team India. A Team India that played with no fear, a Team India that always looked to attack, a Team India that always looked to win. He let his leadership style be known in his very first moment in the spotlight. 

Australia scored 517 in the first innings. India roared back, scoring 444 on the back of a Kohli 100. Australia added 290 and left India with 364 to get on the 5th day. Typically, we are used to captains playing this safe, going for the draw rather than the win. Except, Kohli would have none of that as he went right after the target. 

He went on to add 141 off 175 balls on a track that was turning square, making a mockery of the bowlers before losing his wicket to Nathan Lyon which signalled the collapse for his team. To sum up his innings, Kohli said his first thought whenever he faced a ball was how he could send it to the boundary. That, he said, put him in a better position to defend if need be. "If I was trying to defend already, I am giving the bowler a chance before I play the ball."  Legendary.

YearTests playedRuns scoredAverage100s50s
20141084744.5742
Overall41299444.021112
2015: A leader is born
 
Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli earned the respect of his peers around the world

December 2014 - January 2015: MS Dhoni announced his desire to retire from Test Cricket with immediate effect at the end of the 3rd Test against Australia. Virat Kohli was handed the reigns full-time. He was India’s 32nd Test captain in history at the age of 26. At the turn of the year, he was tasked with saving face for Team India as Australia had raced to a 2 - 0 lead in the 4 match Test series. He scored a century, recording his 3rd in a row as captain as his team stayed with Australia at each step and managed to draw the Test match. This series also saw Kohli record his highest Test score, 169 in the third Test at Melbourne.

June: India were having a torrid time, having lost 4 consecutive Test series, their weaknesses exposed under bright lights and desperately needed to bounce back from the ignominy of the previous season. First up, was a one match Test series in Bangladesh. Rain played spoilsport and there never looked to be a result on the cards. Here, Kohli publicly stated his desire to play a 6 batsmen - 5 bowler combination for India’s upcoming Tests and play an aggressive brand of cricket. 

August: Next up, was a Tour of Sri Lanka which saw a contest between two evenly balanced teams. The first Test started very brightly, but ended on a sad note, with Team India collapsing towards the end, a sight the fans have become all too familiar with over the years. Kohli led his boys with a 100 in the first innings, but lost his wicket cheaply in the second innings, as India were bundled out for 112 chasing 176. 

India needed to make a statement, and that is what they did, recording a come-from-behind series win with comprehensive victories in the next two Tests. India’s bowlers were the real heroes as they managed to take all 60 wickets over the course of the three match Test series. It was a famous win for Virat Kohli, especially so early into his reign and gave India a big morale boost ahead of the home series against South Africa. 

November - December: India recorded a very comfortable 3 - 0 win against South Africa late in 2015, their last Test assignment to date. It was a ridiculous tournament, one that saw the bowlers completely dominant, as the Indian spinners managed to spin a web around the South Africans, who were clueless and eventually surrendered to the hosts. In the last Test, South Africa were defiant to scrape a draw, battling hard, blocking virtually every delivery as the crawled to 143 in 143.1 overs before R Ashwin ended Morkel and South Africa’s resistance. For Kohli, his best knock was a 88 in the final Test. 

YearTests playedRuns scoredAverage100s50s
2015964042.6622

Overall
41299444.021112

The road ahead

Kohli will be hoping his bat does the talking in Test cricket, where he will look to lift his average over 44. The first part of 2016 has seen Kohli achieve ‘demi-god’ status, his popularity reaching almost Sachin Tendulkar like levels. The roof of any cricket stadium is absolutely blown off as soon as he walks in.

It’s a role he seems to be revelling in, he wants to be the centre of attention, he certainly is at the moment. A billion hearts beat as one when he walks into bat, and he will be hoping to have his best season in Test cricket yet and establish his status as a true great. India are scheduled to play plenty of Test cricket in the near future, the sky is the limit of Virat Kohli, it is going to be fascinating what the future has in store for him. Or, rather, what he has in store for the future.

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